How to Keep Kids Reading Over Winter

Beanstack’s Winter Reading Challenge best practices

November 8, 2022

Since January 2018, Beanstack’s annual Winter Reading Challenge has encouraged libraries and schools across the country to celebrate the new year with reading. In the last five years, the challenge has expanded by leaps and bounds. In 2022, more than 2,500 libraries and schools participated and logged a combined 45 million minutes.

To highlight how the Winter Reading Challenge helps communities of all sizes read more, the Beanstack team compiled the 2022 Winter Reading Report. Packed with insights from past participants and winners, the report features helpful tips and tricks about how Winter Reading can encourage a community-wide love of reading.

Graph of five-year growth in winter reading challenge participation

Beyond the chance to win big community rewards, like prize money, books, and author visits, Winter Reading helps grow healthy reading habits at the individual level. On average, 2022 participants read for 25 minutes per school day—nearly 10 minutes higher than the national average. “The Winter Reading Challenge really helps motivate our students to get back on track with their reading after the winter break,” said Amanda Butcher, a librarian at Pearl Hall Elementary in Texas. “It also encourages them to read over the break to get a jump start on their minutes that week before we return to school.”

Boost participation with community goals and collaboration

Community reading goals not only bring readers together but also galvanize big reading gains. The report’s findings demonstrate that schools with a community goal had more than three times as much active challenge participation and more than double the total minutes logged as those without a community goal. And libraries with a community goal had 39% higher challenge enrollment.

When libraries and schools partner up, their engagement and reach is amplified. With Beanstack’s tandem connection feature and widespread use among libraries, students can easily switch between library and school accounts and count their reading toward both Winter Reading Challenges. Out of all the Winter Reading school winners in the past five years, 80% have an active tandem connection with their local library. Tandem connections are a great way to connect readers to resources and reading motivation wherever they are.

Inspire friendly competition

When polled, more than 60% of former Winter Reading school winners mentioned running reading competitions as a key element in their promotion strategy. Thurmont Elementary School in Frederick County, Maryland, announced the school’s leading student and classroom reading totals on their morning announcements. And one Texas elementary school used a classroom scoreboard to recognize when individuals, classrooms, and grades reached key reading milestones within the challenge.

Insights dashbaord showing class-level rankings

Beanstack also offers impactful ways to promote friendly reading competition with its friends and leaderboards feature. It allows students to see their friends’ recent reading achievements and stats. The report’s analysis found that students with friends logged nearly seven times more minutes than students without friends.

Lessen staff lift and maximize rewards

Offering a reading challenge may seem like a time-consuming task when starting from scratch. To work smarter, not harder, libraries and schools can use Beanstack’s pre-made reading challenge templates to launch their Winter Reading Challenge in just a few clicks.

Collateral for the All the Feels Challenge

For an even lighter lift, schools participating in the 2023 Beanstack Winter Reading Challenge, “All the Feels,” gain access to marketing materials that pair with the emoji-themed challenge template. Plus, for the first time ever, libraries can offer Winter Reading as a bingo reading challenge to give readers different pathways to participate and celebrate their reading achievements.

Offering a digital Winter Reading Challenge keeps families engaged no matter where they are during winter break. Jennifer Siderius, media specialist at New Market Elementary School in Maryland, saw its impact firsthand. “Using the app is highly motivating for families,” she said. “We have an active, on-the-go community, so having the convenience of logging into the app helps them stay involved in the contests and makes it easier for primary students to log their reading.”

Beanstack is trusted by more than 10,000 public libraries, schools, and school districts around the world. Learn more about how Beanstack can support your literacy initiatives at


Two young children in a library aisle

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Beanstack’s tandems feature helps connect schools and public libraries